Class Actions -- 2018

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Graham   (U.S. Supreme Court)

Challenging the use of a broad design defect ruling from a decertified class action

The NAM filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling that allowed individual plaintiffs to rely on a jury finding of design defect from the preliminary stage of a prior class action case. A jury found that some cigarettes made by many companies over four decades were defectively designed, which is an essential element of the case. However, the class was later decertified, and individual suits began. A company should not be barred from contesting a design defect issue in a subsequent case unless that issue was specifically decided as to that company and its products beforehand. Otherwise, plaintiffs can avoid proving essential elements of their claim on facts specific to them and can rely on previous judicial determinations based on facts which do not clearly apply to their individual case. The NAM's brief argued that preventing defendants from contesting the core basis of their liability violates due process and that the original jury determination was so broad and general that it would be unfair to hold a company liable for design defects without looking at each individual product. The Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari.

Related Documents:
NAM amicus brief  (October 19, 2017)


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